The Difference between Archives and Backups

The terms “archiving” and “backup” are often used interchangeably. But there are several distinctions between the two and each serves its own important purpose. Here we detail the key differences between archives and backups.


The key distinction between archives and backups is their purpose. Archives store permanent, unchanged data. Backups store your ever-changing and most recent data. That’s why backups must be performed on a regularly scheduled basis and backup media is frequently overwritten and rotated.

Data Restoration

Another difference between archives and backups is that a backup is a copy of critical, frequently-used business data, enabling it to be restored if corrupted or lost. A media rotation strategy is used to store backup data for relatively short periods until replaced with more recent and updated information. But since primary data can be lost or damaged anytime, your backup media should always be properly protected and preserved.


Both archives and backups must be readily accessible. Every business is susceptible to a disaster which might require restoring data from a backup. But highly-regulated industries like healthcare, legal and banking are required to archive data for legal purposes. They are much more likely to receive an e-discovery request rather than experience a disaster or catastrophe. As a result, archival data in these industries is more likely to be accessed randomly and frequently.

Disaster Recovery

Backups differ from archives in another important way. While archiving is used to preserve your records and documents long-term for legal purposes, backups provide a copy of your data so it can be recovered if destroyed by a flood, fire or natural disaster. Despite this key difference, it’s important for both archival and backup media to be stored in the right place under the right conditions.

A media vault offers the ideal storage solution for archival and backup media. It’s equipped with the following systems to protect data from fire, theft, flooding and natural disasters:

  • Ceramic fiber insulation
  • Waterless fire suppression technology
  • Media-specific temperature and humidity regulation
  • Entry access controls
  • Alarm and video monitoring technology

State-of-the-art technology allows backup and archival data to be continuously tracked for quick retrieval and delivery, whether as a result of disaster or to support e-discovery requests.

True data protection and regulatory compliance for your business means having both an archive and backup solution for your business.

Richards & Richards provides records and information management solutions for businesses throughout Nashville. For more information, please contact us by phone or complete the form on this page.

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